Virginia Surgeons’ Rules Before Surgery
There are no hard-and-fast rules to tell you when consultation (or second opinion) is needed, but before you agree to an operation, you should discuss the following questions with your surgeon:
What are the indications for the operation?
What, if any, alternative forms of treatment are available?
What will be the likely result if you don’t have the operation?
What are the risks?
How is the operation expected to improve your health or quality of life?
Are there likely to be residual effects from the operation?
If, after discussing these questions with your surgeon, you feel confident that a surgical procedure is the best treatment for your condition, you probably don’t need a second opinion. If, however, you have doubts about whether the operation should be performed, or if the doctor recommending the operation is not a qualified surgeon, you may want to seek consultation.
Consultation has always been a part of good medical practice, and a competent physician should not be insulted if you decide to get further advice. If you do want a second opinion, here are some things to remember:
* Have your initial consultation with the certified Virginia surgeon who will do your operation, no one else, and certainly not a salesperson.
* Expect to pay for the expert advice you are given during this consultation. Be wary of freebies — why does the surgeon have to tout for business?
* Don’t be talked into having surgical procedures that you hadn’t ever considered.
* All the options should be discussed with you and you should be made fully aware of all risks and complications — no surgery is risk-free.
* Check your surgeon’s qualifications: they should be a member of the The American Board of Surgery (ABS) and The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery or American Society of Plastic Surgeons. A fully trained surgeon is a physician who, after medical school, has gone through years of training in an accredited residency program to learn the specialized skills of a surgeon. One good sign of a surgeon’s competence is certification by a national surgical board approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. All board-certified surgeons have satisfactorily completed an approved residency training program and have passed a rigorous specialty examination.
The letters F.A.C.S. (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) after a surgeon’s name are a further indication of a physician’s qualifications. Surgeons who become Fellows of the College have passed a comprehensive evaluation of their surgical training and skills; they also have demonstrated their commitment to high standards of ethical conduct. This evaluation is conducted according to national standards that were established to ensure that patients receive the best possible surgical care.
Your surgeon will arrange for your operation to be performed in a hospital or ambulatory surgery center where he has been approved for practice. It is a good idea to make sure that the hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a professionally sponsored program to stimulate a higher quality of patient care in hospitals and other health care facilities.
Ask to see before and after photos of the surgeon’s recent work.
* You should be given a definite cooling-off period for you to think about whether you really want to go ahead with the operation.
* Make sure you can afford the operation with money to spare should things go wrong. Be very wary about buying on credit. If you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t be having it…that is unless you need it to live and maintain a normal lifestyle.
* Remember that you can always change your mind, right up to the last minute, and you shouldn’t really be penalized financially for doing so, although this will vary according to circumstance.
Prepared as a public service by the American College of Surgeons.
American College of Surgeons
Office of Public Information
633 N. Saint Clair St.
Chicago, IL 60611